Ryan, while maintaining the magazine's core coverage of celebrities, pushed for in-depth coverage of such topical issues as abortion and drugs and, most recently, devoted an entire issue to an unprecedented report on life in the Soviet Union. Last month the American Society of Magazine Editors recognized her vision by awarding PEOPLE the National Magazine Award for General Excellence.
Ryan's last memo to the staff was an altogether Pat-like gesture. She had just heard that, largely as a result of our story on boarder babies (infants kept in New York hospitals because many of their mothers are crack addicts), 95 of the children had been placed in foster homes. "More than any prize, that tells us what we are about and how much your magazine can mean," she wrote. We wish her the very best; we know she gave us hers.
Her successor, Jim Gaines, joined PEOPLE as a writer in 1976, having been previously an editor at Saturday Review and a writer at Newsweek. He became known around the magazine for his love of a fast-breaking news story, for his tenacity in getting reporters to dig deeper and for reporting and writing the longest piece PEOPLE has ever run, the recent three-part series on John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman. Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Gaines was an English major at the University of Michigan. He is the author of two books, a collection of essays called The Lives of the Piano (Gaines is an enthusiastic amateur pianist) and a literary biography, Wit's End: Days and Nights of the Algonquin Round Table. Jim lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Dr. Pamela Butler, a neuroscientist, and his daughter, Allison, 12.
"Pat Ryan is a hard act to follow," says Gaines. "She has left behind the most successful magazine in America. One of my jobs will be to make sure we never take that success for granted."
Join us in whistling a bar or two of Irving Berlin's Change Partners. The reason: James R. Gaines, 39, formerly our executive editor, has just moved up to the top editorial post of managing editor. He succeeds Patricia Ryan, 48, who after five successful years as managing editor, becomes the editor of LIFE.